Brain-computer interfaces inch closer to mainstream, raising questions

April 30, 2013

A Samsung researcher tests an EEG-controlled app on a tablet (credit: Samsung)

Soon, we might interact with our smartphones and computers simply by using our minds, suggests The New York Times.

“Some crude brain-reading products already exist, letting people play easy games or move a mouse around a screen.

“But the products commercially available today will soon look archaic. ‘To really be able to understand what is going on with the brain today you need to surgically implant an array of sensors into the brain,’ said John Donoghue, a neuroscientist and director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science. In other words, to gain access to the brain, for now you still need a chip in your head.”

Even worse, brain-computer-interface (BCI)-type consumer products mean legalese, points out MIT Technology Review. “What will the terms of service (TOS) for BCIs look like? Exactly the same as those for Instagram and iTunes, no doubt — that is, utterly opaque, designed to protect the manufacturer’s present and future interests by making them as inscrutable as possible.

“No consumer tech company needs that kind of noise. With BCI, it just might pay to make TOS’s as inviting, understandable, as usable as possible — in other words, by treating them like another part of the product packaging, which they in fact already are. … If these companies want us to trust them enough to literally open our minds to them, shouldn’t they put in that kind of extra effort?”